12/16/2010 2:12PM

HandiGambling 214 (FG Turf)


Today's HandiGambling 214 exercise is the eighth race from Fair Grounds, a 'n2x' event with an optional claiming price of $40,000 at one mile on the turf. 

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan." Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.  Past performances are available at the previous blog post.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

As of this writing, the turf course is labeled as GOOD.

This week's HandiGambling race is a contentious one with several runners in with a good chance. 

#10 JOINEM seems very logical.  A lightly-raced three-year-old by Johar, Joinem hasn't run a bad race yet.  Last time out, at Keeneland, Joinem rallied stoutly (last quarter in 23.04) to finish behind the promising Turallure (returned to finish third in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs with a 91 Beyer) while defeating Rescue Squad (came back to finish second in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct with a 94 Beyer).  Today's additional distance should hit Joinem squarely between the eyes, but the lack of pace in this race, as well as the far outside post position, could work against him.  Still, he may have the most upside of any horse in this race, and is taken to run them down in the stretch.

#8 TIGHT GRIP, a $300,000 yearling back in 2005, was privately purchased by Louie Roussel last summer, and has amassed a 7-2-2-1 turf record for his new owner.  He showed dogged determination when going gate-to-wire at this level three starts back at Arlington, and could be on or near easy fractions once again in this spot.  He's run well fresh in the past, but there is a 20-day gap on the tab, and I didn't love the way he finished up his most recent race (admittedly against better - five of the six horses to return from that August 21 race came back to hit the board including next-out Grade 3 stakes-winner Gran Estreno).  He should be prominent when the field swings into the stretch and can't be taken lightly under Rosie Napravnik.

#3 ICE CLIMBER may have some upside as a three-year-old tackling elders, but I wonder if he'll react negatively to returning on only 19 days rest following a hard-fought, career-best effort.  He seems to run best with some cut in the ground so he may appreciate the "Good" going this afternoon.  The Team Block runners have been firing at this meet and Ice Climber merits a price chance if he continues to improve.

I've been following #7 BRENTWOOD BULLET since his fourth-place finish in the John Henry Stakes at Evangeline on April 17.  That day, he did not receive a good ride from Eddie Martin Jr.  Instead of settling into the pocket position behind a pair of dueling longshots, Martin hustled Brentwood Bullet to duel with those two horses while widest on the course.  He put away his pace rivals on the far turn, and was only beaten 1 1/2 lengths in course record time.  In his three subsequent outings, he's been taken back off the pace to no avail.  Perhaps, Robby Albarado will send Brentwood Bullet to the front in this spot, and the Broken Vow gelding has run well over "good" Fair Grounds turf in the past. 

#1 GANGBUSTER has back class as he won the $100,000 Fort Harrod Stakes at Keeneland last April, and was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Marathon on synthetic in 2009.  He seems well-spotted at this class level, but the late-runner could be up against it from a pace standpoint.

#2 DR. ALEX defeated Gangbuster last time out and he should get the jump on that one once again from midpack range.  Trained by Al Stall Jr., Dr. Alex had run well this form cycle, and could work out a good ground-saving, pace-tracking trip behind the speeds. 

#4 MOUNTAIN JUSTICE has done his best running on this course, but he finished well behind Joinem at Keeneland on October 10.  Expect him to be closer to the pace this afternoon, but he hasn't gained ground from the stretch call to the wire in his last four turf outings.

#5 BRAD'S MY HERO is another runner with no early speed.  He'll make his first start for trainer Helen Pitts after competing in New York for Mark Hennig.  He seems to be in his best form, but I'm not sure there's a ton of upside for a four-year-old colt that already has 18 races in the bag.  A slow pace works against him.

#6 ROCK HARD seems better suited to the main track than turf.  He's yet to crack the exacta in four grassy tries, and was never involved when well behind Ice Climber two starts back at Arlington. 

#9 PRECIOUS COLONY earned a good figure three back at Retama, but he tripped out that day, saving ground behind a quick pace before easing out on the far turn.  He hasn't done much in his subsequent two starts, but is tactical enough to be in a solid stalking position while racing in the clear. 

Here's how I'll play it for HandiGambling:

$40 Exacta - Joinem/Tight Grip (10-8)
$40 Exacta - Joinem/Ice Climber (10-3)
$20 Exacta - Joinem/Brentwood Bullet (10-7)

Best of luck to all.